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Free Online Notes for The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold-Study Guide
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The novel takes place over a period of eight years after Susie Salmon’s death. However, it is filled with flashback scenes where Susie remembers something in her life and the lives of her family and friends and they are inserted into the story.

There is also a mini-Prologue, which involves Susie’s memory of her father and the penguin snow globe, which causes the reader to focus on the idea of a perfect world. The whole novel then becomes a search for that perfection in the midst of over-whelming grief. There is an interlude called Snapshots between Chapters 16 and 17. This is meant to emphasize the idea that the pictures Susie had taken are snapshots of many lives and the memories they retain. They also help to analyze why the characters make the choices they do.

The last section of the book is entitled Bones, but it is really an epilogue. We see how the Salmon family and their friends finally step away from their grief and release Susie to Heaven. It also gives us an explanation for the title: The Lovely Bones are actually not just Susie’s body; they are also the cement that binds her family together and allows her to find her “wide, wide Heaven.” That’s why they’re lovely.



The theme of grief is the most important theme in the book. The author herself understands what this family experiences. In her book, Lucky, she tells the story of her own rape and near murder. This kind of experience can be so devastating that the victim must grieve what happened to her and how she has changed. We see her own experience in Susie, who not only must follow her family’s progress through grief, but also her own progress. It is a kind of primer or textbook for us all. We, too, could someday face what the author and her characters have endured. The theme also allows the reader to understand these characters better, even George Harvey, the monster.

Love and Acceptance

The theme of love and acceptance weaves throughout the narrative. The farther the Salmons move away from each, the more they begin to realize they need to turn around and move back. This theme emphasizes just how much we need each other when we are at the lowest emotional level to which we can fall. When someone dies in our lives, we believe we will never recover. However, the author uses her characters to teach us that with acceptance comes recovery for us all.

Good versus Evil

The theme of good versus evil is one that has flowed throughout the history of literature. In this case, it involves how the Salmon family deals with the evil which has been perpetrated upon them and on Susie and allows goodness to flow out of it rather than the bitterness which could have stayed with them forever. What George Harvey did is the ultimate evil, but Susie and her family teach the reader that they must not fall into that blackness and never surface again. Susie represents the goodness that comes out to surround her family and protect them. It is a time-honored lesson.

The Feminist Approach to Rape and Murder

The theme of the feminist approach to rape and murder is a subtle thought placed into the mind of the reader, which emphasizes that we must not reduce rape and, sometimes, the murder that results, as an unimportant crime. Len Fenerman, for example, grieves for all the girls and women who have been raped and perhaps murdered and whose murderer has never been caught. But he gives up looking for them and the author’s message echoes the idea that these kinds of violations must never be forgotten.

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